Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland v Netherlands: Martin O'Neill wary of Dutch spoilers

By Daniel McDonnell

It is 12 years since the Republic of Ireland spoiled Holland's pre-Euro 2004 going away party by scoring a shock win in Amsterdam with Robbie Keane's strike silencing 45,000 locals.

Three years earlier, Mick McCarthy took great pleasure in knocking Louis van Gaal's side out of the World Cup picture because he'd learned they had already reserved flights and hotels.

The dynamic in 2016 is strangely different. Holland arrive in Dublin in the unusual role as warm-up act for a host that is preparing to depart for next month's finals in France.

Update: Rep of Ireland team: Harry Arter handed second cap. Also starts for Darren Randolph, Stephen Quinn and David McGoldrick

It is Martin O'Neill's side who are booked into Versailles for the duration of their French stay, a luxury base that the Dutch had originally reserved as they fully expected to be part of the 24-team finals. The FAI made their move when it suddenly arrived back on the market.

The Dutch surprised England at Wembley in March with a depleted squad and their focus now is on building towards the next campaign and restoring their battered reputation.

They are a formidable opponent that the bookies have priced as favourites to win the fixture.

With O'Neill keen to experiment at some stage with a view to getting players that really need minutes on the pitch, it wouldn't register as a massive disappointment if the Dutch succeeded in deflating the mood.

"I'd like us to be able to use the ball well if we can," said the 64-year-old, when asked what he hoped to achieve from the fixture. "And, even though it's a friendly, I'd like to win the game if we can and keep spirits pretty high as they are at the moment."

He did allude to starting with a strong side and then getting others involved later in the game but, as ever, he will keep the players and public guessing.

John O'Shea has been told he will start at centre-half and the expectation is that Harry Arter and David McGoldrick will feature at some stage as they seek to make a late run into the squad picture, but he must balance the auditions with the need to give minutes to players that have been out of favour or out of action because of injury or the timing of their season. O'Shea is in for that reason and Seamus Coleman, Jeff Hendrick and Aiden McGeady are in that bracket. For O'Neill, it's a balancing act.

McGeady demonstrated his commitment by pushing to get out of Everton on loan to Sheffield Wednesday.

"Aiden went out on January with the Euros in mind," he said. "He could have sat back and played the occasional game for Everton. At least he's made the effort to go out and play. He has that ability to create something."

  • Rep of Ireland v Holland, international friendly: Aviva Stadium, Friday, 7.45pm

Belfast Telegraph